With space missions already in the planning to send humans to Mars, there is an urgent need for more efficient water reuse onboard spacecraft. Reducing the total volume of water needed to sustain long-term space travel means lighter payloads at launch, or the ability to carry more cargo. The AELISS project, a collaboration between the University of Alicante and the University of Puerto Rico, aims to improve the efficiency of such water recycling systems in microgravity conditions.
Last month, NASA launched a cargo ship carrying an experimental system on board used to study the oxidation of ammonia under microgravity conditions to convert urine into water on the ISS. This research project is a collaboration between researchers at the University of Alicante in Spain and the University of Puerto Rico, titled «Ammonia Electrooxidation Lab at the International Space Station (AELISS)».
Urea from urine is converted to ammonia, which then goes through the electrochemical oxidation process, resulting in nitrogen gas, water, and energy. While the electrochemical oxidation of ammonia using platinum as a catalyst is a well-established reaction on Earth, it is not known how well this process behaves in a sustained microgravity environment.
The AELISS research groups chose Metrohm DropSens products (carbon screen-printed electrodes and flow-cells) for their study for many reasons. The product materials were already approved by NASA, and no major modifications to the CSPEs or flow-cells were necessary—essentially ready to use right out of the box. Additionally, the laboratory at the University of Alicante has a long relationship with Metrohm DropSens, asking several times over the years to custom design SPEs for research needs, and always finding them responsive and agreeable.
Metrohm wishes the very best to the research groups behind the ambitious AELISS project at the University of Puerto Rico and the University of Alicante. Metrohm is proud that the company’s products can contribute to space exploration.